It was only recently that I wrote an article about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) report on the surge in traffic deaths for the first nine months of 2016. Now, a report from the National Safety Council has estimated that 40,200 U.S. traffic deaths occurred in 2016, the most since 2007. It represents a 6 percent increase from 2015, when there were 35,398 fatalities. This is the first time since 2007 that the roadway fatalities have exceeded 40,000 people.
The National Safety Council, a national nonprofit organization, attributes the increase in fatalities to low gasoline prices and a rebounding economy from the 2008 recession, making it easier for more people to travel more miles. Not surprisingly, distracted driving behavior has contributed to the increase.
According to a recent Arkansas Democrat Gazette article on the subject, the council estimated a 3 percent increase in the number of miles driven in the U.S. in 2016. Mike Right, a spokesman for the American Automobile Association (AAA) was quoted as saying people now drive more miles to work and have more money to spend on recreational travel. Obviously, the more miles traveled, the greater the possibilities of fatal crashes.
The National Safety Council has been issuing accurate national estimates since 1921, falling within 1 percent of what the final numbers eventually turn out to be. The council bases its estimates on reports compiled from preliminary fatal-crash numbers from different states.
Arkansas traffic fatality estimates
The Arkansas State Police estimate an increase in traffic fatalities from 2014 to 2016. Their preliminary figures show 547 roadway deaths in 2016, an increase from 534 in 2015 and 469 in 2014.
The fact that Arkansas does not have a helmet law contributes to the number of traffic fatalities in the state. In 2014, 42 of the 67 people killed in bike crashes were not wearing a helmet.
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department is addressing the problem of the high level of distracted driving by increasing patrols in certain areas where a greater percentage of distracted driving is suspected. Distracted driving is not just talking on a cellphone but includes loud music, the driver talking with multiple passengers, turning the radio dial, fiddling with the CD player, and/or eating while driving.
Past traffic fatality statistics
Although the recent number of estimated fatalities is very high, they are not as high as those decades ago. In 1980 there were 53,172 traffic fatalities, 46,184 in 1990 and 43,364 in 2000.
Driving is likely the most dangerous activity in which people engage. From the estimated figures, 40,200 people didn’t make it home for dinner, ever again.
I ask you to understand that a traffic accident is something that is avoidable. It all depends on you. Please drive safely and drive defensively.
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